Quirky Euro driving rules

Drivers heading to Europe face a maze of motoring rules

While traffic signs on the continent are mostly standardised, many motoring regulations are not

While traffic signs on the continent are mostly standardised, many motoring regulations are not

With the Port of Dover announcing an increase in ferry passengers to 250,000 in the first week of the summer holidays, the AA is reminding drivers heading to Europe to familiarise themselves with the local rules of the road.

While traffic signs on the continent are mostly standardised, many motoring regulations are not, so a tour of Europe can take in a multitude of, sometimes unusual, rules.

  • Drivers heading to Europe face maze of motoring rules
  • Everything from ban on dirty cars to parking according to whether it’s an even or odd date
  • Even minor breaches can be punishable with large on-the-spot fines or worse
  • AA European Breakdown Cover offering chance to win one of five £500 currency cards

Check the date before parking

For example, in Portugal, it is illegal to carry bicycles on the back of a car; and in Spain, on some one-way streets, vehicles must be parked on the side of the road where houses bear odd numbers on odd days of the month, and on the side of even numbers on even days.

Don't overtake that tram

In Slovenia, drivers must not indicate when entering a roundabout but must do so when exiting it. Further east, it is prohibited to overtake a tram in Estonia which has stopped for passengers; and driving a dirty car could land you in hot water in Belarus, Romania and Russia.

Traffic police on the continent aren’t known for their leniency, so even minor breaches can be punished, but it helps adopting a courteous and conciliatory approach

Rosie Sanderson, AA International Motoring

Courteous and conciliatory

Rosie Sanderson, Head of AA International Motoring Services, says: “Whether touring Turkey, riding round Romania or going on a fly-drive to France, it’s important to familiarise yourself with local traffic rules and compulsory equipment.

“Motoring penalties in Europe can be severe with large on-the-spot fines, the risk of having your car impounded or worse. Traffic police on the continent aren’t known for their leniency, so even minor breaches can be punished, but it helps adopting a courteous and conciliatory approach. Don’t give them the opportunity, though, so brush up on the rules and equipment, watch your speed and don’t drink and drive.”

Cover up on the continent

Last year the AA rescued more than 5,500 members in Europe saving them around £3 million.

Rosie Sanderson says: “Breaking down in the UK is inconvenient enough, never mind hundreds of miles from home where you might struggle with the language barrier. The average cost of a breakdown in France is around £650 and this can increase significantly further afield, so European breakdown cover provides peace of mind should the worst happen.”

The AA’s European operational centre in Lyon, France, has a 24-hour English-speaking helpline and full translation service. They liaise directly with garages – around 40,000 in 47 countries – on customers’ behalf. Each year, the AA gives placements to British university language students and a team of AA patrols provides technical support.

AA touring tips

The AA’s European touring tips provide essential information for more than 40 countries. They include information about compulsory equipment, as well as covering local rules on drinking and driving, use of lights, speed limits, carrying children and so on. They also include more general advice on things like fuel availability and tolls.

Driving rules in Europe include:

Austria

The use of the horn is generally prohibited in Vienna and in the vicinity of hospitals.

When a school bus has stopped to let children on and off, indicated by a yellow flashing light, drivers travelling in the same direction are not permitted to overtake.

If you are stuck in a traffic jam, you have to move over as far as you can to the right (if you are on a single-carriageway road) and to the right and left (on a dual-carriageway that doesn’t have a hard shoulder) to allow free passage for emergency vehicles.

Belarus

It is against the law to drive a dirty car.

Belgium

Any stationary vehicle must have its engine switched off, unless absolutely necessary.

Cyprus

Eating and drinking while driving is prohibited and there is a fine for non-compliance.

Estonia

It is prohibited to overtake a tram which has stopped to let passengers on or off.

Finland

In some towns, the streets are cleaned on a regular basis. Road signs indicate to drivers on which day the cleaning takes place and therefore when the street must be kept clear of parked vehicles. When a car is found to obstruct the path of a cleaning vehicle, it is removed. In order to recover it the driver must pay a fee.

Germany

It is prohibited to overtake or pass a school bus that is approaching a stopping point, indicated by flashing hazard lights.

Greece

The police are empowered to confiscate the number plates of illegally parked vehicles throughout Greece. Generally this only applies to Greek-registered vehicles but the drivers of foreign-registered vehicles should beware of parking illegally.

Iceland

It is prohibited to drive outside marked roads or tracks in order to protect flora and fauna.

Montenegro

School buses must not be overtaken or passed when they stop for children to board or alight.

Netherlands

Trams have right of way except when crossing a priority road. Beware of large numbers of cyclists and skaters.

Norway

Trams always have right of way.

Portugal

It is illegal to carry bicycles on the back of a passenger car.

Buses must not be overtaken when they stop for passengers to board or alight.

Romania

It is against the law to drive a dirty car.

Russian Federation

It is against the law to drive a dirty car, where the registration plate isn’t legible.

Avoid driving at night if possible.

Serbia

Buses must not be overtaken when they stop for passengers to board or alight.

Slovakia

All road users must give way to trams.

Slovenia

Drivers must not indicate when entering a roundabout, they must use indicators when leaving the roundabout.

Use of the horn is generally prohibited in the vicinity of hospitals.

Spain

In some cities in one way streets, vehicles must be parked on the side of the road where houses bear uneven numbers on uneven days of the month, and on the side of even numbers on even days.

It is recommended that a driver who wears glasses should carry a spare pair with them if this is noted on your driving licence.

Sweden

In some towns and suburban areas, parking restrictions are regulated by the date ‘Datumparkering’. On odd days parking is not permitted on the side of the road with odd numbers. On even days, parking is not permitted on the side of the road with even numbers.


(18 August 2014)